Food, Beer, and Travel

a dump from the mind of Jon Piper

Posts Tagged ‘Christmas beer’

Alpha Klaus

Posted by jwpiper on January 10, 2009

Thanks to Matt C., I acquired quite a few of these while I was last in Chicago, and they were recently delivered, along with some Three Floyds Dreadnaught IPA. I’ve been impressed with the Three Floyds lineup which isn’t distributed locally, so I went into this tasting with pretty high hopes. Split at cellar temperature from a 22oz bottle into snifters.
Dark black with an off-white head which turns quickly into a thin layer.
Coffee is the dominant aroma, with other warm roasted malts, a floral hop note, and a slight sourness.
This turns out to be a somewhat classic, light-bodied, coffee, smokey porter. Not quite as special as I was hoping, but still good. My wife, who knew what was coming next, immediately set it down figuring it wasn’t worth the calories. My reaction wasn’t nearly that strongly negative – but I like a porter.
Light, with high carbonation. A little mouth-coating, but minor.
Easy drinking, though not terribly interesting.
There are several other porters I’d much rather drink. Somewhat of a letdown.
$9/22oz. Tough to think of this as a decent value given the availability of better porters for a fraction of the price.

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Christmas in Belgium

Posted by jwpiper on January 4, 2009

Matt C., Andy, and I have been collecting interesting Christmas and Winter ales for a tasting, and the long anticipated Christmas Ale Day (part 1) finally happened. Kelly and Andy came to our house yesterday for a day filled with Belgian food and Christmas Ale.

We started with an apéritif of St. Fullien Cuvée de Noël, an excellent way to start the evening. It was spicy, fruity, and very sweet with an excellent use of caramelized sugars in the brewing. Much better than my last experience with this beer on tap at Buckeye Beer Engine. This ended up being in everyone’s top 3 for the evening.

Then a cheese plate was introduced, served with toasted bread squares and paired with two additional Belgians. The cheeses were:

  • Rogue Smokey Blue
  • Another excellent blue cheese – made with a mixture of cow’s and sheep’s milk. Accessible while still being interesting, with a nice nutty finish.
  • Rogue Chocolate Stout Cheddar
  • St. André brie – an extremely buttery, thick, somewhat firm creamy texture and mild decadent flavor. One of the better brie’s I’ve had.
  • A cheese aged with expresso beans and lavender
  • Some other French cheese – whatever it was, it was the dog of the group.

The Corsendonk Christmas Ale also ended up being much better than when I had it on tap at Melt in Lakewood, OH. This isn’t too surprising, since I’m usually a bit disappointed with the draught beer at Melt. It was good, but not great. The St. Fueillien and Corsendonk experience, however, solidified the fact for me that bottle conditioning makes an enormous difference, and I’ll more or less stop buying Belgian beer on tap if it’s available in a bottle-conditioned version.

N’Ice Chouffe was selected as the third beer and for most people ended in the top 3 beers tasted. This is an excellent example of a spiced beer which is extremely well balanced. There’s a lot of complexity in this beer – fruity, spicy, warm, and not too sweet.

For dinner we had Carbonnades Flamandes and pomme frites with mayonnaise paired with a winter dubbel, Belgian Winter Ale, from Barrel House in Cincinnati. The food was delicious – the Carbonnade complex and sweet, the frites crispy and light. The beer was made much better by the meal. Aside from the pairing, this beer has some nice sweet and fruity flavors, but is nowhere near as well balanced as the Belgians we’d been drinking.

While digesting the ridiculously heavy stew, we moved onto Delerium Noël and Gulden Draak Vintage. The Delerium was my first experience with a bottle of this beer which didn’t strike me with metallic notes. The Gulden Draak was the biggest disappointment of the night, as it didn’t have as much flavor as most of the beers we drank.

For dessert, we had plain yogurt topped with honey and pomegranate.

The “finisher” was a Gouden Carolus Noël which was perfect. Magnanimously sweet, it displays an artful use of caramelized sugar in the brewing process. It isn’t the most complex of the beers we had, but everyone agreed it was one of the best of the evening – especially given its place in the tasting.

Though we were missing two guests, our Christmas in Belgium ended up being an incredible day of delicious food and beer.

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